We met some new cruisers yesterday-Leilani and Mike on Lanikai. Lelani came swimming by early in the morning, and Debra quickly interacted with her while Rich and Andy launched the kayak and circumnavigated Isla Grande where we were anchored. Debra learned that Lanikai was coming up from the south, having spent a full season on the coast of Ecuador, so Leilani was a wealth of information about Central America which will be our next cruising ground once we leave Mexican waters. We now feel even better prepared for that portion of our journey. We had launched one of the paddleboards for Debra so upon the return of Rich and Andy, we all hung out on the board bringing each other up to date on our adventures. At one point, Rich earned the nickname "Shamu" when he tried to become the 4th person on the paddleboard and made the board very unstable, and it has seemed to stick.
We ended our encounter with an agreement to go to shore for dinner at one of the palapa restaurants. Lanikai launched their dinghy and first came aboard Murar's Dream for some fresh lime Margaritas before heading to shore as the sun began to set. We had met with "Jay" of Lilli's Restaurant the day before, and he convinced us that this was the place for dinner after giving us a tour of the kitchen where they had open, wood fired grills and showing us how they made their own, fresh tortillas, so Debra had paddleboarded ashore and made a reservation, even though the beach is now empty, the Christmas vacation having ended on Sunday for the Mexican nationals. We arrived ashore where Jay escorted us to our table overlooking the cove, and, not surprisingly, we were the only patrons. He quickly brought out a tray of all the fresh seafood available-Dorado, Red Snapper, shrimp, and langostas (local, spiny lobsters), and he convinced us that we should order the seafood platter which consisted of fish, shrimp, lobster, and crab. We ordered everything grilled, and we were not disappointed in the least. After enjoying the beach to ourselves and darkness descending upon us, we returned to Murar's Dream where we taught Mike and Leilani Mexican Train. It was a great time, Leilani winning on her first attempt at the game, and we finally called it quits after 10PM, an unusually late night for us.
This morning, Andy checked in on the Picante Net out of Banderas Bay, hoping to reach Double Diamond since our attempts to connect via SSB since leaving Banderas Bay have been unsuccessful. Double Diamond did not check in, but Andy did learn about the outcome of the NCAA national championship football game-an Alabama rout which he had predicted. After the net, we began the process of readying the boat to relocate to Z-town where we are anchored off a beautiful, long beach. However, our first stop was the marina in Ixtapa to top off the fuel tank and fill the empty jerry cans in preparation for the next leg of our journey to Jualtulco. We have heard that Hualtulco is a fabulous place and that we should plan on staying several days. We have not ruled out an interim stop in Acapulco, and we are also contemplating a land journey to Oaxaca via bus, as well.
We are now anchored off of the La Ropa beach in Z-town and have set a stern anchor for the first time. We are expecting a wind shift during the night, and we want to keep our nose into the incoming swells to eliminate any rolling should the swells start hitting us from the side. We have also launched the dinghy for the first time since leaving MdR. The Yamaha outboard turned over as if it had been used only yesterday, not months ago. We took the dinghy to the place where Alphonso, for a mere 20 pesos (about $1.50), helps you land your dinghy and then watches it while you venture into town. On the advice of some fellow cruisers who have been here for over a week, we had our first meal at an "economica" restaurant. It was chicken fajitas for lunch, and then we wandered around the town before returning to Murar's Dream for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. We had visitors aboard as we invited our neighbors anchored off our port side for a visit aboard Murar's Dream. They are from the Vancouver area and have had extensive cruising experience, so it was interesting hearing about their various stops throughout Central America.
Internet access was sporadic, at best, while we were anchored off of Isla Grande, and our last blog was actually posted through the use of our SSB radio. Here, in Z-town, the signal is great, and we have full internet access. We are looking forward to our stay here in Z-town before moving further south.
01/06/2013, 17 40.735'N:101 39.443'W
Time for an update. The trip to Barra was quite pleasant. We were able to sail out of PV to the edge of Banderas Bay when the wind decided to take a break, so it was motoring the rest of the way to Barra. However, this meant very gentle seas and smooth travels. We reached Barra at late morning and navigated the very difficult and narrow channel into the lagoon for the first time. We used the waypoints provided in the travel guide and discovered that they were just on the edge of a very shallow sandbar so any variance of more that 10 feet to port put us in dangerously shallow (less than 10 feet when we draw almost 7 feet) territory. Nevertheless, the waypoints served us well (We also received some advice from some cruisers on a dinghy heading to town), and we were able to set anchor amongst the dozen or so boats in dead calm, clear skies and warm temperatures. We quickly put up the window covers on the dodger to provide additional shade as we awaited the return of our friends on Cheyenne, who had emailed us that they had gone into Manzanillo to work on immigration issues. As the afternoon progressed, the winds built into the low teens, and we heard over the radio that one of the boats, a large catamaran with no one aboard, had started to drag its anchor. As we watched, we determined that we were directly downwind of the dragging boat, so it was time to lift our anchor and get out of the way. After about an hour of 5+ dinghies pushing on the catamaran, it was finally maneuvered through the fleet and re-anchored well downwind of everyone. We returned to our prior location and set our anchor for the night.
We rendezvoused with Cheyenne, first with appetizers and wine on their boat and then a water taxi ride into town for dinner. We first walked along the street adjacent to the beachfront to give Rich a feel for the town before sitting down for the evening meal. On our last visit to Barra, we sat at a restaurant along the parade route for Carnival and enjoyed some very good Molcajetes (a stew with shrimp, beef or chicken served boiling in a hot bowl made of volcanic rock), so we decided that this was the place for dinner. It ended up that everyone ordered Molcajetes, though with varying protein, and we all enjoyed the meal. After dinner, it was back to Murar's Dream for a good night's rest, as we were scheduled to leave for Z-town at the crack of dawn so that we would reach Z-town in daylight.
We arose in the dark to ready the boat for the journey and promptly lifted anchor at 7AM, just as it was light enough to see. The journey out of the channel went even smoother as we were able to shift our course only 10-20 feet, and we stayed in 15+ feet or more of depth out of the lagoon. With a lack of wind, it was motoring for the rest of the morning, but the wind gods blessed us with quartering winds in the low teens which allowed us to set the gennaker for 6+ knot speed until dark when we agreed to douse the sail and change course more directly to Z-town. That meant winds directly astern, so it was motoring for the remainder of the night. The seas were a bit tall, so the night trip involved frequent "kicking" of our stern and adjusting by the auto pilot when the larger swells caught us from behind.
At this point, it is time to talk about our AIS system. This system allows us to "see" other large ships on our chart plotter, determining their speed, course and intersecting point, both in time and distance. Using the antenna provided by the manufacturer, our experience was only to "see" these large vessels only when they were within 6 or so nm of us, despite the fact that we could see them on radar and visually long before. We swapped antennas with the one on the top of our mast for our VHF radio, and, bingo, we could now "see" those vessels many miles away. In fact, we saw a vessel for the first time at over 70 miles! What we learned with this added visibility was that we were traveling in a very active area for shipping. Late in the afternoon, we began watching a large (600 foot) cargo ship which was heading directly at us. When it got about 6 miles away, we contacted it by VHF radio to make sure that it saw us. The pilot confirmed that and advised us that he would modify course to avoid us, and we passed safely at about .5 nm (lead photo). Throughout the night we observed numerous, large tankers and cargo ships, and, at times, crossed paths as close as 3 miles. This device has and will serve us well as we head further south and eventually cross several shipping lanes in our Pacific crossing.
This morning on our final approach to the Z-town area, about 20 miles away, we had our first billfish strike! As Andy was letting the lure out, a fin appeared in the water behind the lure. After a few seconds, he felt something "hit" the lure. The fin remained above the surface, and, after two more "hits," the fish took the lure. Immediately, it began to run from the boat, so Rich immediately slowed the vessel while Andy tightened the tension on the line to stop it from running off the reel. Soon, the fish jumped clear of the water in an attempt to throw the hook. It was a 4-5 foot Marlin! After a few more moments of fighting the fish, it managed to throw the lure and escape, but this was definitely a highlight. Hopefully, this will not be the first billfish strike that we will see, even though it will have to be catch and release. We would have no way of dealing with such a large fish aboard Murar's Dream.
We have reached our intended destination for the night-Isla Grande just off of Ixtapa and 10 nm from Z-town. We have anchored off a beach and swam to shore for some refreshments since there are quite a few palapas along the beach. We are now back aboard and will have dinner onboard. We will probably move on to Z-town tomorrow.
01/04/2013, ParaHappy New Year from south of the border. On New Year’s morning, we were treated to Bloody Mary’s, black eyed peas and cabbage (a southern, good luck dish), and good company as we all convened at the local yacht club to welcome in the new year.
Happy New Year from south of the border. On New Year's morning, we were treated to Bloody Mary's, black eyed peas and cabbage (a southern, good luck dish), and good company as we all convened at the local yacht club to welcome in the new year. Now to bring you up to date since the last blog:
After settling into Paradise Village, we awaited the arrival of Double Diamond. Rich and Andy took the bus into PV to pick up some items at the local chandlery (marine store) and try to find a small fan for the front cabin, as we expect hot nights as we head south shortly. Debra remained onboard for some personal down time. After rendezvousing with Double Diamond, we were off to Fajita Republic for a pleasant evening's dinner along the lagoon. It was great to catch up with all our happenings and begin the process of comparing notes for provisioning: something that is a true art. We agreed to get together the next day and compare notes, as both our boats have been compiling lists of things that we already have and those that we need to acquire before starting our long passages to French Polynesia.
The following day, Andy took the bus into PV while Debra and Rich remained in Paradise. He was successful in finding a small fan for the front cabin, and he also located unrefrigerated eggs (they will last several months by turning them every few days, unlike refrigerated eggs which have to be continually refrigerated). New Year's Eve started with dinner at a local Argentinian steak house where we were also joined by Mark and Debbie of Younger Girl, Mark having just returned from visiting family in the U.S. Following dinner, the Double Diamond crew headed down to the PV malecon while the rest of us returned to our respective vessels. Rich, Debra and Andy managed to stay awake long enough to walk down to the beach and watch the assorted fireworks displays around the bay before calling it a night. Rain had been forecast for the evening, but we were all spared until 5AM when the skies decided to let loose. Rich quickly arose to shut the deck hatches which we left open for ventilation and cooling since the cabins can get quite stuffy. After quickly stopping the incoming rain, it was back to sleep until dawn when we awoke to continued rain. We have had a steady period of rainfall throughout the day-something that is unusual for this part of Mexico during the winter. However, it is a nice break from the hot and sunny days which are so customary for this time of year. We are taking advantage by doing laundry in preparation of our departure, and Andy took on the task of defrosting the refrigerator and freezer (frost free appliances use far too much energy for cruising boats, as they have a heater element for the defrosting feature). That night, we all gathered on Double Diamond for a serious game of Mexican Train dominoes followed by some home-made tortilla soup.
Wednesday was our day for final provisioning. We rented a car for the day, and Andy took the bus to the airport to pick it up in the morning. After returning to pick up everyone, we made trips to Costco, Walmart and Mega for the provisioning. Our biggest concern was how to fit all the additional provisions onboard while retaining the feeling of a well-kept home onboard. We had been shifting the location of items already onboard to make room in these limited storage areas. Upon return from all the provisioning stops and after carefully packing, to our surprise, we were able to fit all the new provisions in existing storage areas without the need to further clutter the boat!
As it looks now, the weather window is opening today, so we have departed for Z-town this afternoon with an interim stop in Barra de Navidad which is about half way. Otherwise, this would be a 2.5 day journey. Hopefully, there will be enough wind for sailing, but we are prepared to motor this leg if we have to. Unlike our crossing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas which should last 3-4 weeks, and we only carry enough fuel for 3-4 days, we can easily make Z-town even if we had to motor the entire way. We have sunshine today for the first time in three days, so Debra and Rich took a morning walk along the beach with our friends from Double Diamond and Younger Girl while Andy remained onboard to make final preparations for departure since he appears to have come down with a mild cold.
12/29/2012, Paradise Village
Thursday was our trip to Sayulita, when we were joined by 4 of the members of Gabby wrae. As always, it involves quite a bus trip-two separate buses, first from La Cruz to the main highway (going the wrong way) and then hopping on the Sayulita special. These buses are, by no means luxurious, most being upscale school buses and others with slightly more comfortable seats. The key, sometimes, is getting a seat at all. The Sayulita bus can be the most crowded, so we go unusually far out of our way to change buses in hopes that we will get seats before it fills up, usually in the town of Bucerias, just east of La Cruz. Fortunately, the bus gods treated us well on the trip over, as the bus never filled completely, but the trip back was more interesting. First, however, we should fill you in on the happenings at Sayulita. Debra and Andy went to the jeweler that made Debra's opal ring last year to have the stone re-set while Rich went exploring on his own. A trip down to the beach was quite the scene-It was as crowded as we had ever seen it, both on land and in the surf. Although it was a weekday, it must be the result of the holiday season. Debra and Andy also found the fresh juice bar for some great drinks before returning to the bus stop. Along the way, they stopped at the fruit and vegetable stand for about 10 lbs. of oranges for orange juice for a whopping 25 pesos-not even $2! Food, especially the fresh kind, is definitely more affordable in Mexico. Upon reaching the bus stop, there was a return bus, but it was already filled, so we waited for the next one. Debra went and stood in line when the next bus arrived, but when it opened to load about 10 minutes later, the locals pushed their way in front until Debra could get onboard. Fortunately, there were still seats available for the three of us, and, by the time it left, it was SRO.
We returned to Murar's Dream where we unpacked the oranges before heading out for dinner at a local seafood restaurant. The whole crab appetizer was to die for with a sauce of butter, garlic and what we believed was Worchestershire sauce. The rest of the meal was nothing to write home about, and it was back to the boat for another, good night's sleep.
Friday was a time for Debra to have some alone time as the boys took the bus into PV and the chandlery for some boat items and then off to the supermarket for a few staples. The bus ride was well over an hour each way, so it was almost 2PM before they returned with a fresh rotisserie chicken from the local stand for lunch. Later that afternoon, the marina had paddle "races," and Rich was quick to participate on one of our standup paddleboards. Debra and Andy chose the more leisurely activity of Mexican Train dominoes at the palapa restaurant overlooking the marina. All of us hooked up with Debbie Hayward, the friend from Younger Girl, and headed off to Philo's Bar for dinner and live music. A good time was had by all before returning to the boat for another night of calm before heading out the following morning to our new marina at Paradise Village. For those of you who did not follow the blogs last season, we describe Paradise Village as a Disney hotel with all the amenities-tennis courts, swimming pools, beach, spa, etc. There is also a small shopping center with a grocery store, gelato store, various retailers, and, of course, a Starbucks. We have settled in awaiting the arrival of Double Diamond when we will finalize our plans for New Year's Eve. There is no shortage of activities to choose from.
12/27/2012, La Cruz
Now that we are settled in La Cruz, it is time to bring everyone up to date. Christmas Eve was a non-event as we were all ready to start the recovery process of two days of non-stop sailing. However, we were treated to a dock party adjacent to our slip where we were reunited with some old friends, John and Nicki of Seychelles, who had spent the summer in the Sea of Cortez before returning to Banderas Bay. We awoke on Christmas morning to very pleasant temperatures and clear skies, so Debra and Andy took advantage by taking a hike along the shore as they explored the coast west of the marina. After traversing a rocky area on the shore, they ended up at a beautiful, private area with cobblestone streets and well manicured landscaping. After finding their way out through the guard gate to the main road, they found the restaurant about which they had heard good reports-Sandzibar. It was open so they took advantage and enjoyed a delightful brunch on an open patio overlooking the bay. They were the only customers so it was like dining in their private kitchen as they were given 100% of the attention of all the staff. Rich went for a run along the shore east of the marina.
The afternoon was used as more recuperation time before it was time to go to the cruiser's potluck dinner at Philo's Bar, the hangout for cruisers in La Cruz. It is owned by the brother of our friend, Debbie Hayward, with whom we buddy boated from Manzanillo back to Banderas Bay last spring aboard Younger Girl, a Lagoon catamaran. The restaurant supplied roast turkey, and all the cruisers brought assorted side dishes and desserts. Our contribution was a delicious cheesecake which we had purchased from one of the locals here in the town. The evening was culminated by the giving out of free gifts to all the town's children. A "Santa Claus" sat on center stage and handed out the gifts to over 500 children, assisted by several elves who passed bags of gifts out of large garbage bags to Santa as he handed them to the children. We were also introduced to several cruisers as we sat at Debbie's table.
Today started out with Debra and Rich launching the paddleboard for a trip outside the breakwater where they rendezvoused with Brian and Deidre on Cat2Fold, a custom made catamaran that will fold up to be trailered. We met them last season in Chacala. After that, Debra and Andy took the bus to Nuevo Vallarta for lunch with Steve and Janelle of Cheyenne whom they had met in Santiago Bay last winter. They are fellow Coloradans who live in the Broadmoor area of Colorado Springs. They annually spend their winters in Banderas Bay and Barra de Navidad and are scheduled to leave for Barra tomorrow.
We had our first dinner onboard since arriving in port. Andy was able to use the new, high powered grill which did a great job searing the tri-tip steak. Debra did oven baked potatoes and caesar salad to complement the dinner. We had dinner at the cockpit table in cool temperatures and clear skies-quite a nice way to dine.
We have finalized our plans for Banderas Bay. We will be visiting Sayulita before moving on to Paradise Village for several days. We will depart for Z-town next week after celebrating New Year's (maybe dinner and fireworks viewed from offshore as we did last year).
12/24/2012, La Cruz
There really is not much news since the last blog, but we are in a new port. We have arrived safely in Banderas Bay and have decided to spend the first few days at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz. We hope to move to Paradise Village when our friends on Double Diamond arrive from Mazatlan later this week. Our trip was once again dictated by weather as we left one day early based upon a forecast of high winds and seas for the crossing from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta starting this week. Hence, we hurried our departure for Saturday afternoon that not only put us in a better weather window but set us up for an arrival before Christmas Eve. It became a unique crossing when we were asked to "buddy boat" with a family from San Diego whom we had met when we were bashing last year back from Mexico. They had planned to do the "southern crossing" to Mazatlan but had to turn around the night before due to mechanical problems, so they decided to go direct to PV, and we supplied a nice safety blanket since they had been having numerous mechanical problems since leaving San Diego.
We were quickly in brisk winds and lumpy seas for the night, so it was a night of limited sleep, but it was good that we left when we did, as the remainder of the trip was much more comfortable. We arrived to sunny skies, brisk winds and 86 degree temperatures, and are making final plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.
That's all for now. More after Christmas.